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Composer's Notebook

by Darrell Leonard

The score for Carter’s Way was written to capture the feel and sound of Kansas City swing music during the thirties. My goal was to evoke the authenticity and excitement of a time when Kansas City was a creative melting pot. I listened to the ragtime piano players, the blues singers, the horn players and the territory bands that traveled playing at the hotels and dance halls scattered across the Midwest. I followed the music as it progressed from the two-beat jazz groups of the twenties to the swinging big bands of Bennie Moten and Count Basie. The Kansas City swing style has its roots in the blues. Tunes and arrangements often developed on the bandstand at after-hours jam sessions where musicians, free from the constraints of a paying audience, could play whatever they felt. Virtuosity was not enough. Musicians had to be able to tell a story with their instrument. Reputations were made and destroyed in these late-hour sessions. Challenging each other, throwing riffs back and forth, they developed a hard-charging rough and ready style that was unique and continues to influence players to this day.